Business World

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Pfizer and AstraZeneca bosses face another round of questioning from British MPs over takeover

Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read
Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read

James Tapsfield

The bosses of drugs giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca face another round of questioning from MPs today over the US firm's takeover bid.

The Science and Technology Committee will grill executives on the potential implications for British jobs and the economy.

Yesterday Pfizer's Ian Read and Astra chief executive Pascal Soirot appeared before the Commons Business Committee, with the latter delivering a strong warning that a takeover of the British based firm could disrupt the development of life-saving drugs.

While stressing he did not rule out recommending a deal if the price and terms were right, Mr Soirot stressed the mooted level of £63 billion was far too low.

"What will we tell the person whose father died from lung cancer because one of our medicines was delayed because our companies were involved in saving taxes or saving costs?" he said.

Mr Soriot said the re-domiciling of the newly-merged company to the UK - which Pfizer has said would still see its headquarters remain in New York - would cause "substantial controversy" likely to result in delays.

It came as the US firm turned up the pressure on Astra, outlining its proposals directly to the UK company's shareholders in a presentation setting out the "strong strategic rationale" for the tie-up.

Astra dismissed the announcement as containing "no new proposal nor substantive new information".

But Mr Soirot added: "It is impossible to say we will never accept any offer...

"We are well aware of our fiduciary duty and an offer that would value the company at the right value would be an offer and a proposal that we would find implementable - such an offer we would have to consider."

Earlier, Pfizer chief executive Ian Read admitted there would be job cuts as "part of being efficient" but could not specify where in the world the axe would fall.

He was pressed by MPs on the future of research and development (R&D) spending after any merger.

Mr Read said: "I do not expect the combined total will remain the same.

"I expect it will be lower, to what extent I cannot be specific."

His remarks added to concerns about the deal after politicians and unions expressed alarm that it would lead to job cuts and damage the UK's position as an R&D hub.

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